It is the time of year characterized by eating, eating, getting together to eat, and eating! You don’t have to miss out on Nana’s country mac ‘n cheese or the sweet treats you put in all the hard work to make (or the fudge you bought)! Staying fit for all the holiday helpings is not a feat of great strength or willpower when you balance your indulging with activity. Exercise does not have to be torture, either, for those of us who do not consider going to the gym on our list of “favorite things to do.”
Thankfully, even while you are in the Smokies for the holidays, there are plenty of ways to balance what you eat with the calories you burn. Here are my top 3 ways for staying fit during the season of joy (and lots of eating) by hiking, trying new playing in parks, and just being a tourist!
HIKING IN THE SMOKIES
Hiking has always been one of my favorite ways to stay in shape. The adrenaline from the exercise mixed with the serenity of being around nature really helps balance my mind and body. While you are spending your evenings in Pigeon Forge hosting a huge holiday meal at the cabin with family or visiting the Dixie Stampede, wake up and start your mornings and afternoons exploring the hundreds of miles of trails tucked into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!
Abrams Falls Trail is located on the loop inside Cades Cove, a beautiful mountain valley nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail is considered moderate and is 5.6 miles, roundtrip. It meanders alongside Abrams Creek where, if you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of otters! (Back in the late 1980s, 133 otters were released as part of an environmental effort to reintroduce the species back into the area.)
Laurel Falls is a shorter, paved trail to the breathtaking 80-foot waterfall in the Smokies. The roundtrip 2.6 miles of trail are paved, making it easier to walk and bring along the younger explorers!
Andrews Bald is a moderate 1.8-mile (one way) hike along Forney Ridge Trail that’s a great start to the morning. From the Clingmans Dome parking lot, you will rise 900 feet in elevation that ends at the Andrews Bald overlook with miles of rolling mountains and breathtaking scenery in the Smokies.
Some of the most fun to be had in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is trying out the outdoor sports you don’t need to be an athlete to participate in and enjoy! Explore mountain terrain with these 3 fun ideas to get your blood pumping:
Cycling around Cades Cove is peaceful and scenic as you glide past sleepy mountain towns that have been restored. Gaze across rolling hills to mountains shimmering with yellows, reds, and golds in the autumn sun. The 11-mile loop does have hills, but there are also 2 cut-through roads if you are pressed for time or want a shorter route. While you are more than welcome to bring your own bike, the Cades Cove Campground Store offers bike rentals, including helmets!
Skiing and snowboarding are quite the exhilarating workout. Visit Ober Gatlinburg during the winter season for snowboarding, snow tubing, and skiing. It’s a great way to get everyone out of the cabin and out burning some energy while having a blast! Ober offers gear rentals, clothing rentals, and lessons; get out and try a new sport this year! Also, wipeouts on the slopes are never not funny…
Though it is an indoor activity during the winter, swimming is an excellent form of exercise! Several of our cabins offer private indoor pools for you to get out of bed, make the short walk, and take a dip to work all those muscles and prepare for the day.
BEING A TOURIST
That’s right, doing all the normal touristy things count as exercise! Leave the car in any one of the numerous parking areas in Pigeon Forge and opt to walk to all the shops and attractions. Walk through over a dozen exhibits in Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, voted “Best U.S. Aquarium” by USA Today’s 10 Best Reader’s Choice Awards! Or scurry through Gatlinburg’s Mysterious Mansion; screaming burns calories, right? I have come home with sore feet from wearing the wrong shoes for a day of shopping at the Tanger Outlets in Sevierville and The Island at Pigeon Forge; you can lose track of time and how much walking you have done in the midst of all your favorite brands and Smoky Mountain shops. At The Island in Pigeon Forge, try the ropes course, shopping at boutiques, playing The Escape Game, and more! Be a kid again and join in on a competitive game of laser tag at LazerPort! Your children will love to brag about that tuck-and-roll they saw you do for the sake of the team (even if it was kind of sloppy)!
With so much to do around the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area, staying trim for the holidays won’t even seem like a daunting task. And after long days of hiking, walking, and shopping in the Smokies, I’d say you have earned that second plate of food during the holidays!